Thursday, May 23, 2024

The first spuddle of the season

Last weekend, we celebrated my birthday with our first 'spuddle' of the season. For me, that was the best gift I could have and I’m very grateful to Koos for making it happen.

In case you're wondering about that word 'spuddle', I’ve recently learned that there are various dictionary definitions of 'to spuddle', but all agree it is archaic (probably why I like it) and can be used either as a verb or a noun. 

The definition I can relate to most is to 'work feebly in an aimless fashion and without achieving a great deal'. As a child, I remember my brother often used the word to mean he was busy doing nothing much. "What are you up to," I might ask him. "Oh, just spuddling about," he'd say and by that I knew he meant he was really just faffing around. 

Well, that about sums up our short boat trips. We don't go anywhere in particular, and we enjoy being a bit aimless. A spuddle might be just a few turns around the harbour (as when I had my old rowing boat), or it might be what we did on Sunday, which was to do the few kilometres from our harbour to the Belgian border town of Zelzate. In essence, we are faffing about on the water for the fun of it, and apart from enjoyment, there's no real purpose to our faring.

Anyway, it was perfect weather for said spuddle. The sun shone, it was warm and there was little wind. The Hennie H behaved perfectly as we headed out of the marina and turned right towards Belgium. 

Behind us the propellor water looked good and there was no smoke from the exhaust, always a good sign, and we passed under the first big road bridge before proceeding on to the next one at Zelzate. Zoe was as good as gold sitting quietly on deck and watching us go past her normal world.

For myself, I tried to focus on relishing the view and being on the water rather than seeing all the work that needs doing. The winter has been hard on the Hennie H, but hopefully the weather will allow us to deal with some of the worst deterioration before we go away.

Up ahead a perfect distraction appeared. A large sea ship was approaching us being towed by some of the big beefy tugs I'm so fond of. It was a fantastic sight as it slowly passed us on its way to Terneuzen and the Channel.

Isn't it magnificent?

Looking back, it was interesting to see the entrance to the harbour where Vereeniging is moored as well as the inner harbour at Sas van Gent, both of which are the remains of earlier canals. The two photos below show the history of this waterway quite clearly.

The big commercial barge (first photo above) is moored in the original course of the canal and the next opening (visible in second photo above) is the Historic Harbour with the old lock on a slightly later version of the canal. The current, much wider cutting was dug in the 1960s.

I've always loved loading quays, both old and new and the one above is appealing for its modern simplicity.

Just before the bridge at Zelzate, we'd crossed the border into Belgium, so now it was time to turn back. Our trip was quite impromptu and we didn't have all our papers for going 'abroad', so to speak. Koos did a big U-turn in front of the ship yard you might be able to spot in the photos below.

I was fascinated by this vessel. Someone on Facebook suggested it was a dredger and they're probably right, although I liked another suggestion that it might be a skateboard ramp.

And this contraption below is a clever plastic collector. Since the wash from the barges pushes plastic waste to the side, it is easy to trap it in this receptacle here. I've never seen it before, and I'm guessing it's a new invention.

Lastly, the banks of the canal were smothered in buttercups and daisies. Aren't they pretty? I do love spring so much, particularly when we have weather like this. 

On the way back we stopped next to Vereeniging to have a cup of coffee. This last photo tickled me. Koos knows I hate gaps, so I was pleased he'd caught me being brave for once. 

 So there you have it, a lovely birthday spuddle. It was a gift of a day in so many ways. Enjoy the rest of your week, allemaal, and I'll fill you in on our other doings next time.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

The tranquillity of being back on board

The only ripples are from passing barges

It's been lovely to be back on board again. Last weekend, which also happened to be the Ascension Day holiday weekend here, was glorious, meaning Koos and I were able to spend a couple of days on board Vereeniging without risking life and limb getting on and off the boat. The weather was perfect so I was very happy to be able to work outside, cleaning, sanding and varnishing. 

We also managed to start preparing the Hennie H for her first trip out, hopefully this weekend. Koos got the engine running and I started the never ending process of sweeping and cleaning. There's loads still to do, but now it's raining again, we'll have to wait until it's dry before continuing.

Here are just a few photos of the harbour. It really was quite magical.

Pearly skies reflected in the water

Evening light on the deck

Evening light over the camper park next to Vereeniging's mooring

The Hennie H basks in sunshine

The contrast between leisure pursuits and industry

At the Crumbly Cottage, too, everything is springing into life and we have a real summer view at last. I never get tired of our outlook, and the first thing I do every morning, rain or shine, is take a few moments to rest my eyes on the peaceful scenery.

Our summer view (at last) from the cottage

Willow trees coming into leaf

And lastly, Zoe has had a summer trim, thanks to my daughter who is an expert spaniel groomer. She even has the little 'skirt' that show dogs have – not that she's impressed. She's actually not very happy at losing the protective fluff under her tail, and keeps running away from herself, poor baby. I'm hoping the sensitivity will wear off soon and she'll be back to her normal self. The shorter coat will definitely keep her cooler, though.

Zoe, exhausted after her haircut

 Enjoy the rest of your week allemaal, and I'll catch up with you all soon.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

More pictures than post

The last ten days have been distinguished by their lack of interesting events. It's really quite unusual for me to feel I have nothing much to say. Apart from a visit we had from a delightful English couple we met a year ago in the camper park next to Vereeniging's mooring, there's really nothing much to report. It's been one of those 'a bit of this and a bit of that' periods. 

For a start, the sunny days have been few (about one and a half days a week, literally!) and mostly too windy to undertake any boat painting. I have, however, managed to do some sanding and varnishing on Vereeniging's teak entrance (although I think I'd already started that when I last wrote a blog). What else? Well, now the leak problem in the Crumbly Cottage has been solved (thanks to Lally Brown and her amazing husband) I've also managed to repair and paint the kitchen wall which has finally dried out. The wood has also been ordered to make insulated panelling along the lower half of the kitchen wall against which I might decide to build some cupboards. I'm thinking about that.  And then today, I painted the rendered strip along the bottom of the cottage's external facade.  

So, things are progressing; just very slowly. As I said, 'a bit of this...'. And we are at least talking about going faring this summer. If we have some nice weather soon, a few spuddles might be in order to test things out - the engine, for instance.

For now, though, I am left with not much paid work other than assessments and examining, so I'm writing a lot, reading a lot, doing my DIY projects, and walking. Which brings me to my final 'bit of that' of news. 

My daughter, Jo, and I have signed up for a challenge to complete 100 km each during May in support of Multiple Sclerosis research. I realise I would probably achieve this anyway if I recorded all the walks I do with Zoe, but I am now focusing on doing one recorded walk per day that I add to the score. I don't count the rest. It's resulted in my having achieved 35% of my aim already, so I'm sure I'll manage the whole 100 km by the end of the month.  Jo and I have formed a team, The Can Doers, so if you feel like giving us (and MS research) a bit of support, you can donate here. We'd be very grateful for anything anyone can spare:

So that's it allemaal. Enjoy the rest of your week and I'll finish with some recent photos from our world :)

Intriguing pathway

Hidden waterways

Stormy Zeeland skies

Best buddies

Zoe hiding under a curtain

Two big tugboats on the canal

And the huge sea ship they were towing

Typical Dutch dykeside lane